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Old 07-11-2017, 05:30 PM   #1
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Mastering Question

Hey guys

I have a question for people who master tracks.

When I start my song I generally set my tracks by default to -6db. I do this, so that I can have enough headroom when Im starting to add more tracks to my song, and eliminate fighting to turn up things if they are too soft.
When I'm finished my song and move to my limter(its normally on from the start), I find I have to pull the threshold down quite a bit to get the track to a 0db level. Now I could just slap a gain plugin and just turn the overall master up before it goes into the limiter, but here's what Im not sure about...Will that not increase un wanting transients/noise??

What would be a practical solution here to get my track to the 0ob it needs to be, without smashing the threshold too much?

Side question here lol. Whats everyones thoughts about saturation plugins on your master channel? lol

Thanks

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Old 07-11-2017, 05:43 PM   #2
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Re: Mastering Question

Personally, I'd bring it down from -6 to between -18 and -10..that way you should have more than enough headroom at the end of the project to bump up the gain to 0 at the end, without much hassle.

It might sound a bit odd at the start, mixing like that, but it's worth it in the end.

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Old 07-11-2017, 06:41 PM   #3
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Re: Mastering Question

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Personally, I'd bring it down from -6 to between -18 and -10..that way you should have more than enough headroom at the end of the project to bump up the gain to 0 at the end, without much hassle.

It might sound a bit odd at the start, mixing like that, but it's worth it in the end.
I start at -10dbfs as a default as well. When you are done with your mix you could also just turn all the channels up by the same amount (like +1db) until you can use more reasonable limiter settings. If you are using 100% plug ins the noise floor is virtually non-existant from my understanding, even with analog modeled plug-ins noise is typically a non-issue unless I’m doing something extreme on purpose, and then its not really an issue. I do a lot of line level recording from synths, samples, drum machines (all modern instruments) and I don’t find I have a problem with noise floor even then.

Saturation on the 2bus—I couldn’t live without it. I regularly have U-he Satin on the master from start to finish on a project.

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Old 07-11-2017, 10:37 PM   #4
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Re: Mastering Question

A) Get a LUFS or LKFS meter (there's free ones out there)
B) Move WAY down to start with
C) You want your AVERAGE body LKFS, to start with, to be down around -23 to -18 dBs range (most folks choose -18 over -23....-10 is also done, like Relic there, and you can totally do that, but if you're having problems I'd suggest going lower until you get a handle on things and how you like to flow)
D) If that's bothering your style of getting into the groove because it's too soft (I like it loud when I'm writing), turn up your output on your machine and not inside the DAW
E) Don't aim for 0 dB...ever. At the MOST, in step (H) below, you can aim for -2, but that's a "no-no" by standards (although, I tend to do it while raising a middle finger to the proverbial standards police 0.0)
F) Measure your average peaks WITHOUT a limiter or compression (not counting compression you use to shape the sound for style). Apply limiters and compressors AFTER you know your dynamic range; not before.
G) Once you are done mixing, THAT's when you start moving the faders up
H) Set your final levels so that the average PEAK is around -6; not your average body level



I'll have a tool wrapped up soon that will actually help a bit in this regard.
Basically, you would start out low-ish - even upward of -10 for a body average, and then you would capture some data regarding your song via a couple handy tools, and then the calculator tool that I'm building in excel will spit out what to set your final levels to so that you can achieve the average level, dynamic range, and average peaks that you want to hit.
And it'll be easy to do so from song-to-song and get the same quality balancing between different types of songs because of the calculations taking place on the back-end of the calculator.

I'll be posting in here (studio) once I get the instructions finished.




Also: just for the record.
Songs pre-EDM explosion/vomit on the internet were generally set so that the average peaks were around -10, the body averages were often down to around -18, and max peaks would tap -6.

The stomp-the-floor-Spinal-Tap-2.0 movement of smashing up to 0 is when things got to where "low" became -10 for the body average.

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Old 07-11-2017, 11:41 PM   #5
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Re: Mastering Question

i leave them all at zero, and turn them down as needed, in Ableton, doing a select all faders and bringing it down by 3 or 4 as needed helps a lot as well.


also, i have no hard and fast rules, i use saturators and colorizing bus comps all over the place, drum subgroup, master bus, whatever... ive learned that if it SOUNDS GOOD than it is good. (obviously within reason, but I've been doing this shit for a long time now)

honestly, its how i've managed to make Ableton NOT sound like Ableton, also not warping stuff that doesn't need it.

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Old 08-11-2017, 12:34 AM   #6
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Re: Mastering Question

I'd be a bit concerned over that method of just yoloing at 0 if there's more than a few elements in the track going on.
You can easily end up in a case where you're blowing hot and hitting 0 rather than just ducking it, and your dynamic range can end up very squashed down to the 7 dBs of range type of problem - which is a pretty low DNR to hit.

If the main level was reduced, then the spikes wouldn't hit that 0 and the DNR would likely increase, but if it's slapped up to a -8 average level then there's very little room to avoid smacking up against 0.

HOWEVER, experience makes taking moves like this possible.
I'd just hazard telling people to go about it that way if they're having issues because they don't have years of experience informing their handling that hot.

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Old 08-11-2017, 01:28 AM   #7
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Re: Mastering Question

Thanks guys, this is actually really useful stuff. I'm going to try these ideas and see what works best. I defiantly agree with bringing up the overall level on all the tracks equally though. As silly as this sounds, the thought never actually crossed my mind

The Stumps, I'd really interested to see this excel calculator. Sounds in theory pretty cool!

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Old 08-11-2017, 08:31 AM   #8
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Re: Mastering Question

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I'd be a bit concerned over that method of just yoloing at 0 if there's more than a few elements in the track going on.
You can easily end up in a case where you're blowing hot and hitting 0 rather than just ducking it, and your dynamic range can end up very squashed down to the 7 dBs of range type of problem - which is a pretty low DNR to hit.

If the main level was reduced, then the spikes wouldn't hit that 0 and the DNR would likely increase, but if it's slapped up to a -8 average level then there's very little room to avoid smacking up against 0.

HOWEVER, experience makes taking moves like this possible.
I'd just hazard telling people to go about it that way if they're having issues because they don't have years of experience informing their handling that hot.


works for me. but like i mentioned, no hard and fast rules over here.

...and my mixes - they're fine, for me its not ABOUT LOUDNESS (thats not me yelling its a "bricked waveform") I just prefer to gain stage my stuff like i come from (and i have) the good ole days of analog (I've mixed bands in all sorts of environments live while cutting my teeth on all of this stuff) where having hot signals to begin with is pretty crucial when mixing monitors from FOH, which, most of the time was the case. That mentality is pretty well engrained in me so i go with it.

I don't peak channels or master bus, nor am i one to distort anything unintentionally.

My process in the studio is very much to mix as I produce. There is a final mixing stage of course, but typically by the time i get there my mix is typically 90% finished.

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Old 08-11-2017, 10:16 AM   #9
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Re: Mastering Question

I'm not sure which old school we're talking about.

Muscle Shoals ranged peaks of -5 to -2 (-2's were more the mid 60's era) with an average of -15 for the body.
Giorgio Moroder regularly ran at about the same with a push sometimes up to a body of -10, but the peaks were roughly the same as Shoals (dominantly leaning toward the -5 range with heavy spikes to the -2).

Kraftwerk is roughly the same, but has a wider range drifting all the way down to -25 for the body at times and peaks wavering from -20 all the way up to -5 within the same song.

Or are you referring to the Planet Rock and Promised Land era where you would slam the drums up to to a hot 0 and everything else lower to create the body down at -14 to -10 ranges?

Or are we talking "old school" as in the 90's, which roughly moved back to the pre-80's settings of -5 to a max top of -2 as typical with the roughly -15 to -14 ranges - rock bands hitting even lower down of -20 to -18 with peaks up to -10 as an average, and max peaks of -6 periodically?

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Old 08-11-2017, 10:41 AM   #10
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Re: Mastering Question

I'm not sure what you're talking about at this point.


Happy mixing.

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Old 08-11-2017, 10:49 AM   #11
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Re: Mastering Question

I just wasn't sure which good old days of analog was the reference. There's a few different ones.

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Old 18-11-2017, 09:15 AM   #12
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Re: Mastering Question

Hey guys

So thanks for all the feedback on mastering. I tried some of your advice on this track here( all very great by the way). I did my best to get to a dynamic range of 5. I hear in this kind of style of music 4, 5 is pretty normal.

My only issue in the beginning was that I had the all the tracks a bit hard before I went into mastering.


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Old 18-11-2017, 07:10 PM   #13
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Re: Mastering Question

I know I'm a little late to the party. I heard your song and I hear no issues with it, no unintentional distortion.

The way I set up for mastering, my mix actually occurs at around - 30 db, then I have a bitshift gain on the master bus: [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


Available for free and explained in detail there. The short version is it does nothing to the audio at all except turn it up or down in increments of 6 db and only 6 db. No noise, no dither, no zipper effect, no saturation. I use that to set the final level of the track in the range that I want it, usually -10 to -15 db. Come mastering time, I just slam the limiter down as hard as I need to. -12 db threshold? Sure, I've done that before. In theory, you could use this system to get your track within 6 db of 0, but I don't like the way that sounds when I master it, too much saturation going into my chain. You could also use multiple limiters to push the sound up a bit at a time, or gain stage during mastering and turn it up pre-limiter but after everything else.

But those are just some ideas, it sounds to me like you've figured out something that works for you.

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Old 18-11-2017, 10:18 PM   #14
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Re: Mastering Question

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I know I'm a little late to the party. I heard your song and I hear no issues with it, no unintentional distortion.

The way I set up for mastering, my mix actually occurs at around - 30 db, then I have a bitshift gain on the master bus: [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


Available for free and explained in detail there. The short version is it does nothing to the audio at all except turn it up or down in increments of 6 db and only 6 db. No noise, no dither, no zipper effect, no saturation. I use that to set the final level of the track in the range that I want it, usually -10 to -15 db. Come mastering time, I just slam the limiter down as hard as I need to. -12 db threshold? Sure, I've done that before. In theory, you could use this system to get your track within 6 db of 0, but I don't like the way that sounds when I master it, too much saturation going into my chain. You could also use multiple limiters to push the sound up a bit at a time, or gain stage during mastering and turn it up pre-limiter but after everything else.

But those are just some ideas, it sounds to me like you've figured out something that works for you.
I just downloaded it. Thanks for the tip. Looks quite simple and east to use like you say. Is -30 db quite low though. I'm not use to working at such a low level. Excuse my ignorance here, but should i monitor the input gain to around -30db or just bring the faders down to there?

Thanks again!

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Old 18-11-2017, 11:13 PM   #15
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Re: Mastering Question

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Originally Posted by tristcarmichael View Post
Hey guys

So thanks for all the feedback on mastering. I tried some of your advice on this track here( all very great by the way). I did my best to get to a dynamic range of 5. I hear in this kind of style of music 4, 5 is pretty normal.

My only issue in the beginning was that I had the all the tracks a bit hard before I went into mastering.


Track is private but you can find it on this thread..

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Hmm.
OK, the mix is great.
The mastering is pretty good, but you've got some opportunities for adjustments if you want them.

Your DNR isn't 5. It's registering as an average of 8 over the whole song.
Your average LUFS is ~-9.7, your average peak (not "true peak") is -1.6.
Your bandwidth is roughly par at ~16.7 Khz.

Here's your distribution of levels
You could spend some time spreading those levels out a bit more so that more things happen a bit lower than mostly all at 8ish.
That would move your DNR up more.

So currently it's pretty flat, but I think if you wanted a wider range, then you definitely have some opportunities.

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Old 18-11-2017, 11:37 PM   #16
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Re: Mastering Question

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Hmm.
OK, the mix is great.
The mastering is pretty good, but you've got some opportunities for adjustments if you want them.

Your DNR isn't 5. It's registering as an average of 8 over the whole song.
Your average LUFS is ~-9.7, your average peak (not "true peak") is -1.6.
Your bandwidth is roughly par at ~16.7 Khz.

Here's your distribution of levels
You could spend some time spreading those levels out a bit more so that more things happen a bit lower than mostly all at 8ish.
That would move your DNR up more.

So currently it's pretty flat, but I think if you wanted a wider range, then you definitely have some opportunities.
Thanks for the info here! Hmm, what were you using to measure this? I've been using the waves WLM meter. How would one spread the levels out more?

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Old 19-11-2017, 12:08 AM   #17
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Re: Mastering Question

Firstly, there's a difference between real-time in-daw meters and other loudness meters.
I personally don't like in-daw loudness meters because of a variety of pedantic issues.
I don't even measure loudness with sound from the daw.
I export it into an mp3 and then run measures on it.

Thèse in-daw meters are going to employ PSR (Ian Shephard's creation) and it's pretty good, but I have some problems with the accuracy of employing short-term analysis to get a single digit result to summarize a whole song.

I use the Orban Loudness meter myself because it's what we use at the cable company I work for (well..no...we use Dolby's in-stream loudness meter on the feeds, but we use Orban if we want to spot check the feed post delivery).

It also allows logging down to the second, so you can get some very powerful data back, such as averages...which most daw meters do not use, and histograms, which no daw meter I'm aware of offers.

How to spread out?
All that DNR is, is the distance from peak to your average level.
That's it.
So if you want more DNR, then you're looking at moving that average level down more by turning more tracks down while leaving something (usually drums) up to keep the peaks higher.

I just had the idea a bit ago to mix histogram info with frequency info...that would be interesting and handy. I'll get back to you on that once I get that figured out.

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Old 19-11-2017, 05:39 AM   #18
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Re: Mastering Question

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I just downloaded it. Thanks for the tip. Looks quite simple and east to use like you say. Is -30 db quite low though. I'm not use to working at such a low level. Excuse my ignorance here, but should i monitor the input gain to around -30db or just bring the faders down to there?

Thanks again!
Just the faders, the gain brings it up on the master so that you can actually hear it. Then you can turn it off when rendering or turn it down to a more reasonable loudness for mastering. I suppose you could actually check your mix at those levels, I usually don't.

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Old 19-11-2017, 06:27 AM   #19
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Re: Mastering Question

There is just way too much to know. I really wish I could afford studio time. My mixes are pretty listenable these days. Really just wish I had some people to collab with in real time. Over the webz is alright...but damn...damn...damn...damn...

I don’t know how this applies here at all. Sorry guys.

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Old 19-11-2017, 06:43 AM   #20
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Re: Mastering Question

OK, here we go.

Your song is on the left.
One of my song's is on the right (it's just a comparison point...it's not to suggest that my song is the best produced comparison - it's just something I know and to compare against).

You can see the distance between the most common LUFS and the most common PEAK on yours is more narrow than the same difference on mine.

On your song, you'll see that you have a profile which looks as though you're forcing everything to a specific range, like having compressors on individual tracks, and EQ's on individual tracks as well (or cutting things off) - but in general, you can see between the spectrograph and the LUFS reading that you've got settings which are pushing everything up, rather than letting anything fall where it naturally lands.

Either that, or you don't have enough instrumental diversity so everything's piling up together.

On the song of mine compared to it, there's a couple of things that're going on.
Instruments are allowed to naturally propagate without compressors, and instead I turn things down accordingly via the fader.
I have a wide range of amplitudes over frequency (spectrograph) rather than every frequency range being forced up to nearly the same level.

You also don't have a lot of deviation between sections within the song - in regards to profile.
The easiest way to see this is via a spectrogram (similar to a spectrograph, but a per-second visual representation of the same information - like ultrasound in a way).

Here's yours:
Here's mine for comparison:
On your song, there's no real "backing off". It's just a wall of the same profile the entire way through.
That limits your variety in ways far beyond DNR. Keep in mind that spectrograms are referring to frequency and not volume.

You could back down on both volume and back off on how many instruments are flowing through some sections, so it breaks up more and creates more space - which in turn will make the big sections seem that much more impactful.


My guess is that you could choose some tracks that are "back-ups" (that is, not the main focus) and lower them a bit, then use a stereo widener to change their panning profile so they still are able to be heard, but with a lower level requires, or you could just pan things a bit off left and right that are not the primary focus instruments/tracks.

All of these things could be ways to approach a more rounded profile.
As always, it's ultimately up to you as the artist as to how spacious or narrow you want the song to be.
There's really no such thing as "properly spaced" music.
There's no real such things as the "right" DNR or the "right" LUFS.

It has to do with what the song is supposed to do according to the artist.
If you WANT to change the profile, then you can look into some, or all, of these things in this post.

Cheers!
TheStumps

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tristcarmichael (19-11-2017)
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